Under a newly announced anti-obesity initiative, doctors in Great Britain will be required to report patients who gain weight. Naturally, government officials are using the “it’s good for you!” excuse, claiming this move is designed to "protect" people from the diseases associated with obesity.
Simon Stevens, the head of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), is enthusiastic about this new initiative though he seems a bit muddled when it comes to corporeal abundance. First, Stevens says the British people are in such grave danger of becoming fat and diseased that they need government intervention to convince them to shut their gobs and start exercising. In other words, he seems to think the British people are zombie-like eating machines, incapable of controlling themselves. Enter the benevolent government official to "help" the British on the road to recovery. The Telegraph reports:
Under the scheme, family doctors will be asked to identify anyone who has gained weight and is at risk of diabetes – particularly those aged below 40.
They will then be offered tests for pre-diabetes, followed by healthy lifestyle advice and close monitoring to ensure they are eating better and exercising more.
But then, Stevens goes on to criticize last week's European Union ruling, saying obesity is a disability, calling it a "fatalistic attitude" and "daft".
Instead, he urged millions of people to put Christmas indulgences behind them, and take action to shed the pounds.
"The ghost of Christmases past reminds us that 20 years ago we didn’t have these problems as a nation,” Mr Stevens said.
"The ghost of Christmases future tells us that if we get our act together – as the NHS, as parents, as schools, the food industry – we can get back in shape."
He called on individuals to take concerted action and suggested attitudes needed to change to prevent the country sleepwalking into the worst public health emergency in at least three decades.
Which is it, Mr. Stevens? Are the British people incapable of controlling themselves and in need of government control? Or are they successful dieters in the making, who need encouragement, not force?
Steven's is right, of course, that obesity is not inevitable. We can control how and how much we eat. Yes, of course, some have a tougher time of it than others but there is treatment and thousands of resources for those who want to lose weight. It is possible. It’s hard and it can seem like a sisyphean task at times but it is within an individual’s power to lose weight.
And yet, Stevens thinks the solution to losing weight is to shame, inconvenience, an scare people into making changes? He thinks the British will react well to first being ratted out by their doctors and second by being strong armed by some government bureaucrat who tells them they have to take time off work to get screened for obesity-related diseases?
Perhaps Stevens could look back at his own experience for some better ideas about getting people to trim down. It turns out Stevens himself was encouraged to drop pounds–not by government fiat–but by personal incentives provided to him by his employer (bracketed commentary mine):
The chief executive of NHS England, who took up post in April has made it a personal mission to priorities obesity prevention, after losing almost three stone.
Mr Stevens said he had put on 40 lbs while working in the United States [sure, blame America!], in private healthcare, but was spurred into action by an workplace scheme which gave staff financial incentives to lose weight [wait…what? Incentives? Not punishment?].
The head of the NHS said he wants to see similar schemes introduced by private companies throughout England.
Yes, similar schemes no doubt are being introduced and he should encourage that. My husband wears a pedometer every day because if he reaches a certain number of steps, he gets s discount on health insurance. There are other things my husband does to help reduce our premiums. It keeps him healthy and we have more money in our pocket. That’s the type of anti-obesity initiative that works.
Shaming fat people and telling doctors to betray their patients’ confidence is no solution.